Colonial Intervention and the Politics of Identity
Jonathan Wyrtzen's Making Morocco is an extraordinary work of social science history. Making Morocco’s historical coverage is remarkably thorough and sweeping; the author exhibits incredible scope in his research and mastery of an immensely rich set of materials from poetry to diplomatic messages in a variety of languages across a century of history. The monograph engages with the most important theorists of nationalism, colonialism, and state formation, and uses Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory as a framework to orient and organize the socio-historical problems of the case and to make sense of the different types of problems various actors faced as they moved forward. His analysis makes constant reference to core categories of political sociology state, nation, political field, religious and political authority, identity and social boundaries, classification struggles, etc., and he does so in exceptionally clear and engaging prose. Rather than sidelining what might appear to be more tangential themes in the politics of identity formation in Morocco, Wyrtzen examines deeply not only French colonialism but also the Spanish zone, and he makes central to his analysis the Jewish question and the role of gender. These areas of analysis allow Wyrtzen to examine his outcome of interest—which is really a historical process of interest—from every conceivable analytical and empirical angle. The end-product is an absolutely exemplary study of colonialism, identity formation, and the classification struggles that accompany them. This is not a work of high-brow social theory, but a classic work of history, deeply influenced but not excessively burdened by social-theoretical baggage.